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Written by Anne Tschida, BT Arts Editor   
March 2017

Miami’s YoungArts Week features masters as mentors

WArtFeature_1hen Miami native Chat Travieso became a National YoungArts winner in visual arts in 2003, it opened up a new world. Not only would he be one of the select few teenagers to participate in master classes led by nationally known professionals and create work that would be exhibited or performed, but he would be eligible for selection as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the most prestigious award for young artists. He won that, too.

The connections and the friends he made through those early successes have stayed with him, says Travieso, who is now based in Brooklyn, where he creates socially engaged, architectural public art. He has been commissioned by the Architectural League of New York and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, among other groups.

In late February, Travieso returned the favor, coming back to Miami as a YoungArts Week coordinator for design arts. He was just one of the leaders who took part this year’s YoungArts Week, a flagship program for YoungArts that has become a formidable incubator for nurturing young talent not just in Miami, but from across the country.

ArtFeature_2Since its founding by Ted and Lin Arison in 1981 -- he the founder of Carnival Cruise Lines, she also a co-founder of New World Symphony -- YoungArts has always had a broader reach than Miami. The finalists, ages 15 to 18, come from around the nation, and are involved in almost a dozen disciplines, from music to dance, visual arts to design.

Some of the more famous alumni include actors Viola Davis and Kerry Washington; musicians Terrence Blanchard and Josh Groban; and visual artists Doug Aitkin and Miami’s own Daniel Arsham. Master class teachers have included Mikhail Baryshnikov, Placido Domingo, Frank Gehry, and Jeff Koons.

But its importance for Miami hit a new threshold when YoungArts, in 2012, moved into the architecturally stunning former Bacardi buildings on Biscayne Boulevard and turned them into a cultural campus, with performance and exhibition programming year round.

In 2013, YoungArts started its Design Arts discipline under the tutelage of Gehry, bringing in such acclaimed architects as Zaha Hadid and Michael Arad as master-class teachers. Then in 2016, it announced a collaboration with the Miami-based international architectural powerhouse Arquitectonica. Along with preparing classes in architecture, interior, graphic, and fashion design, the firm would also offer professional opportunities for winners. In a city like Miami, whose urban landscape is so rapidly changing and where economic and ecological interests are colliding head on -- but also where fashion and image are all important -- this particular discipline seems most pertinent.

ArtFeature_3Jump ahead to this year’s Miami’s Art Week -- when Travieso headed up the Design Arts -- and it’s clear how mature, diverse, and integrated these programs have become. First off, the almost 700 winners were selected from the largest applicant pool ever, teenagers from 42 states. They are eligible to participate in regional art weeks in Miami, Los Angeles (in March), and New York (in April).

In the Design Arts category, the ten finalists participating in Miami represented a number of specialties, including architecture, fashion, jewelry design, and industrial design. They took classes from an equally eclectic group.

Consider the example of Chicago-native Germane Barnes, who has focused his architectural practice on how the built environment influences the social and cultural environment in urban confines. From some pretty mean streets of his hometown, Barnes moved to Cape Town, South Africa, and is now the designer in residence at the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation. He works on changing the literal and psychological landscape of one of the most depressed areas in Miami-Dade.

Design Master Teacher Karelle Levy threaded a different course. She has carved out a niche with her handmade textile creations here in Miami, some of them clothing, some installations, some sociopolitical statements, such as her widely popular pink pussy hats she knitted for people attending the Women’s Marches in January.

ArtFeature_4

Designer Kayce Armstrong fused her own blend for her master class, combining high-fashion and music (she has her own band). And the Indian-American designer Naeem Khan, known for his designs worn by Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Kate Middleton, took time to be part of the week.

“There is such a wide variety of what [the teenage awardees] are exposed to,” says Travieso, “it just expands your thinking.” Travieso explains that the one-week experience, while intense, is just the beginning of the YoungArts program. The other people they meet, no matter if they are studying visual arts, music, dance, or design, will stick with them forever, at least according to his own experience. “Making connections, interacting with others -- it’s so valuable to see what others are doing,” which includes both the high-schoolers and the master-class teachers.

In the other disciplines, classes were headed up by exciting, influential “teachers.” In dance, participants got to interact with world famous Jamaican modern dance choreographer Garth Fagan. He has choreographed for the Alvin Ailey and José Limon companies, the Dance Theater of Harlem, and created the Tony Award-winning choreography for The Lion King.

For the writing workshops, Books & Books founder Mitchell Kaplan and Pushcart Prize-winning author Ana Menendez took the helm. As for visual arts, local big names Edouard Duval-Carrié, Robert Chambers, and Antonia Wright contributed their voices. Chambers held a class in which the students donned what looked like hazmat suits and slathered each other in paint, for a session of “paint hugs.”

These are all interactions, exposures, and a heft of talent that simply would not have been possible when the Arisons first funded this venture. In the cultural arts realm, Miami has grown over those 30-plus years, with both young and older residents able to access a wide variety of arts.

But there is still a gap in this morphing town: serious arts education beyond high school. YoungArts is situated to bridge some of that, bringing together established art professionals, many of them now based here, with an increasingly sophisticated public. It’s those teenagers leaving YoungArts Week who will be the new ambassadors for that new Miami.

“I know people are actually moving to Miami” to be part of an art scene, says Travieso, a reversal of what was happening when he was a YoungArts winner a little more than a decade ago. “I think YoungArts can have an impact in cultivating this growing community here.”

 

The application process for 2018, for those ages 15-18, or in grades 10-12, opens in this spring. Visit www.youngarts.org for more information.

 

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